From the on-screen defence of a striker to the striking up of a defensive midfield partnership, there is plenty for columnist Pat Nevin to get his teeth into ahead of covering tonight’s game on Chelsea TV…
Some months are just mouth-watering and this is certainly one of those for Chelsea. After the stunning start to the league campaign culminating in seeing off Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, there are two Champions League ties, two home games against Manchester United and a visit to Spurs after Norwich come to the Bridge at the weekend.
Sometimes that sort of month can be more worrying than enjoyable but if you are on a winning streak, you just think ‘bring them on’. Certainly that is what the players will be thinking right now, while you have momentum get as many games played as possible. Sometimes momentum and confidence are not considered as the most important factors, usually when you have lost a couple, but there is no doubt the entire group grows together under these circumstances. They believe in themselves, the tactics, the manager and in time their own invincibility.
If you do not believe the power of these thoughts just take a quick look over the last day at this year’s Ryder Cup golf. After Ian Poulter finished the day before on an incredible run of five birdies, not only did the rest feel inspired, they sensed that momentum had turned in their favour. Good players and good teams know precisely how to ride that wave of positivity. I hope the lads can do just the same tonight against FC Nordsjaelland. A win in this one and suddenly the home draw against Juventus will not feel like such a bad result.
To go back to the golfers, I was actually struggling to see it live as I was on the BBC’s Match of The Day 2 programme with my old friend, the presenter Colin Murray. Usually after doing such a high profile TV programme I walk down the street the next day in my home town and get lots of people saying hi and mentioning that they saw me on the box, but nobody did.
In fact I had more people mention my appearance on the late night current affairs programme Newsnight a few days before, when I was talking about the John Terry case with the FA. On this occasion the presenter was Jeremy Paxman and I will let you into a little secret, I was prepared for an extreme grilling and had rarely ever studied the facts of any subject in such extraordinary detail.
For those outside the UK, he is known to be a very hard but also intelligent interrogator. Happily it went well, even if it was enjoyable only in hindsight. But why did nobody watch Match of the Day? It was of course on at exactly the same time as the golf climax and on top of that there had only been one game that day in Aston Villa v West Brom, hence very few people obviously watching and listening to my opinions.
I’m looking forward to working with a top presenter this evening after all those rank amateurs, Gigi Salmon will of course be behind the desk on Chelsea TV tonight when I am on with Tore Andre Flo. Remember to call us on the phone-in afterwards if you have a spare moment, we will be honest, and rigorous if not quite Paxman-esq, but I digress…again.
Those who did tune in to MOTD2 would have a heard a stout defence of Fernando Torres from yours truly, but then again those who read this page regularly will be aware of my position on Fernando as it hasn’t changed since the day he arrived. He will be a Chelsea great and I think we are now really beginning to see him gelling with the midfield and his world-class goal sniffing instincts back at full power.
Another man back at the top of his game is Mikel, after a particularly difficult night in the Juve game. I would argue that his last two performances have been possibly the best two of his entire Chelsea career. He has shown a great strength of character to fight back and I am sure he would be the first to thank the manager for keeping faith in him. For some reason the pairing of Ramires and him at the base of the midfield just seems to have clicked and I will admit right here that I for one wouldn’t have thought of it.
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I will be interested to see if Robbie plays them together again tonight, there is a good argument for rotating the squad and there is plenty of quality ready to step in, but if they can get quite a few games together and cement that understanding, you could almost say that the defence and the defensive midfield could be sorted for the rest of the season, at least!
However we go in this one, whether it is a sublime footballing display or a scruffy, hard-fought win, it doesn’t matter at this stage. Three points are bordering on imperative if we are going to progress and if we can get out of the group, the team will by then really be beginning to fully understand each other. That would be worth seeing later on after Christmas and as European champions (have I mentioned that before?) we really think we should be in the knockout stages this season, having rebuilt in an incredibly short period of time.
So to last week’s question. I wanted to know if you could you tell me how many competitive goals Claude Makelele score in his entire career? As far as I can tell there were 18 goals: 9 for Nantes, 2 for Marseille, 3 for Celta Vigo, 1 for Real Madrid, 2 for Chelsea and 1 for Paris Saint-Germain. (He got 1 more as a French U21 player.)Only one winner of course and the lucky man this week is Nigel Kingsley from Hove, the prize will be on its way anon.
This week to have a chance of winning a DVD of last season’s Champions League success, signed by Juan Mata, could you give me the name of any Chelsea player who has played for MK Dons? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with that and to the lads tonight.